190831 back to school
A family buying school items at LuLu Hypermarket in Al Ghusais. Parents were busy last week buying school items and completing registration or admission formalities for children. Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman/Gulf News

Dubai/Abu Dhabi: More than a million students across the UAE are heading back at school on Sunday after a two-month summer holiday.

American, British, International Baccalaureate and Ministry of Education curriculum schools are starting their 2019-20 academic year, while Indian, Pakistani, Filipino and Bangladeshi curriculum schools are starting their second or third semester of 2019-20.

On Friday night, after the crescent moon was sighted, it was announced that Saturday was the first day of the Islamic New Year and schools would open on Sunday.

Schools sent out text messages to parents and made posts on social media at around 10pm on Friday confirming Sunday was the first day of school. Some schools will be opening later in the week in line with their own schedule.

Last-minute shopping

Parents were busy last week buying school items and completing registration or admission formalities for their children.

Sunday morning is expected to see heavy traffic with school buses and parents driving children to class. Police departments in the UAE had said they will step up patrols to ensure a safe and smooth school run and urged motorists to follow road rules, especially near schools.

Zubair Haider, 40, a Pakistani father-of-two, said his wife will drop off their son, who is in grade one, and daughter, who is in kindergarten, to school on Sunday.

“We’re fortunate as the school is just five minutes away from our home [in industrial area 6 of Sharjah]. My wife will be taking them to school at 7.30am when the school gates open,” Haider said.

However, he plans to leave earlier than usual for work in Dubai to avoid the traffic congestion.

“We’ve already done all the re-registration formalities for kids, only a few minor shopping chores are left,” he said.

Another parent said she still had to buy stationery for her two children, in grades six and eight at a British school in Sharjah.

“We’ve done the re-registration formalities and bought shoes and uniforms. We’re using school bags from last year as they are still in great shape,” said Shabina, a 39-year-old Indian housewife. “The first day back to school is always hard as everyone has to get up early — at 5am in our case — after months of sleeping in. But it’s also exciting for the kids because they had missed their friends from school and look forward to meeting new teachers in the new grade,” she added.

Time off work

As last year, parents working in federal government departments have been granted reduced working hours this week to make arrangements for their children related to the new school year. Many companies also allow staff to take some time off work for the morning or afternoon school run during the opening week as families adjust to new routines.

Charter schools

This year, more than 15,000 seats will also be available at a dozen charter schools, which offer a ‘third educational model; in the emirate. These institutions are government-owned, but will be run by three leading educational providers – Aldar Education, Bloom Education and Taaleem.

The charter schools will educate enrolled Emirati pupils at the kindergarten and elementary levels under an American curriculum. Nine of the schools are located in Abu Dhabi and three are in Al Ain.

The first charter school — Al Rayana School — was inaugurated in Abu Dhabi’s Al Falah area last year. The aim of the project is for public schools to benefit from the expertise of the private sector.

“The Charter Schools project aims to establish a sustainable educational model and create a competitive environment in which educational operators provide the highest quality of services. More importantly, charter schools will offer stimulating environments and innovative learning practices,” said Khuloud Aldhaheri, division manager of educational institution contracts at the Adek, or Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge.

New schools

In Dubai, five private schools, including four UK curriculum ones, are opening this year. Three more will open next year, creating over 13,000 seats in total. Dubai has 211 private schools — the most in any city — offering 17 curricula to more than 289,000 students from almost 190 countries.

In Abu Dhabi, there are more than 450 schools, including more than 265 public institutions and over 190 private schools. They cater to more than 371,000 students in the emirate.

UAE school community

Public schools

639 schools, 23,146 teachers, 287,725 students

Private schools

580 schools, 46,870 teachers, 793,295 students